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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Bachelor’s degree requirement to hit Head Start next year

Starting in fall 2013, Head Start and Early Head Start lead teachers in community agencies around the city will have to have bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education. The city expects that 14 percent won’t meet the requirement, and could potentially lose their jobs or be demoted.

Child care agencies’ own policies will determine what happens to staff who don’t meet the requirements, says Chicago Department of Family and Support Services spokesman Matt Smith.

Federal regulations call for half of Head Start teachers nationwide to have bachelor’s degrees by fall 2013. But the regulations also appear to prohibit the government from sanctioning any program that fails to comply.

The city requirements, Smith points out, exceed federal guidelines but are in line with the mayor’s Early Childhood Initiative, which will include teacher qualifications as among the criteria that determine whether programs are able to keep their funding in the 2013-2014 school year.

Assistants, too, will be required to have an associate’s degree or a CDA (Child Development Associate) credential. The city estimates that 8.5 percent of these staff might not meet the requirement. 

During the 2011-2012 school year, there were 837 Head Start preschool classroom lead teachers and 130 Early Head Start infant and toddler lead teachers in Chicago, according to federal program data.

A total of 263 lead teachers have enrolled in city-funded bachelor’s degree programs. Of those, 113 have graduated and the rest are pursuing degrees. Just 60 teacher assistants have earned associates or CDA credentials, but 200 more are working on them through city-funded programs.

A number of studies have supported the idea that bachelor’s degrees among teachers might lead to improved learning for preschool students, but it’s been tough for researchers to find definitive proof – largely because teachers with bachelor’s degrees tend to be in programs that are better-quality for other reasons, like more resources. 

Academics, time, money keep teachers from completing degree

Some early childhood quality advocates also promote a bachelor’s degree requirement as a way to professionalize preschool teaching.

But there are many obstacles to achieving the goal.

A 2010 Illinois Education Research Council policy brief, “Examining the Chicago Early Childhood Teacher Pipeline,” found that a backlog of students who had not yet made it into education methods classes are slowing down the pipeline. Many students don’t even make it into early childhood education programs, sometimes because of prerequisites like the Basic Skills Test required of all prospective teachers.

Lack of academic preparation is one reason why students don’t make it into programs.  Other candidates are side-tracked because they need to work.

The study found that one-third of students who planned to enroll in early childhood classes reported that conflicts between work and class time impeded their progress; one-quarter said financial issues did.

Norma Jones, a former Head Start lead teacher who now works in the infant and toddler program at Centers for New Horizons’ Effie Ellis Early Care and Work Center, says short staffing and 40 hours a week of teaching has kept her from having time to finish a degree.

Jones testified at one of the City Council Progressive Caucus budget hearings in October with several of her coworkers and half a dozen other SEIU members, and said the city isn’t providing enough funding for teachers to meet the new requirements.

Jones is currently working on a CDA credential. Of the lead teachers at her school who lack degrees, she says, some are cramming in online courses on their lunch break in an effort to meet the requirements.

But she believes “you can have the experience and be just as qualified.”

“I have been in child care since [age] 16. It’s a passion, it’s a gift, it’s a calling,” Jones says.

Brynn Seibert, director of the Child Care and Early Learning division of SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana, says the union is concerned that experienced teachers will lose their jobs when the city’s mandate takes effect. “Time, money, access – they’re all factors and we certainly wouldn’t want to see teachers with years of experience in classrooms, and relationships with kids and families, getting pushed out,” Seibert says.

She says state-funded Gateways to Opportunity scholarships and city-funded programs haven’t been enough to help teachers who lack degrees. “There needs to be greater investment in scholarship programs and supports for teachers who are in the classroom,” she says.


Point of information wrote 2 years 3 weeks ago

A similar requirement should be in place for the school board.

"All school board members must have a degree in education." Bye bye Penny and the rest of you con-artists.

Ed Dziedzic wrote 2 years 3 weeks ago

Good idea.

Ha ha, well said!

northside teacher wrote 2 years 3 weeks ago

Bachelors degree needed for 8 dollars per hour

You must have a bachelors degree, with 70k in debt, to make 8 dollars per hour with no can only work 25 hours a week..that should really help improve the pre-K schools. Great recruiting idea.

Just shows Obama's world of education is about as bad (or worse) than Bush!!

Herbert Lang wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Lack of Experience

A lot of teachers lost their jobs at the hands of inexperienced principals. It is a sad day that a principal will label a teacher that has taught many years and many students; and will drop their rating down from superior to unsatisfactory on the first year of evaluation. What does that say about that principal. That that was a principal with a hatchet in the hand; and just wanted to get rid of the teachers. Those principals who are not in the job for the just; should not be allowed to be principals. A teacher's career is not to be taken for granted for all the endeavor they have instilled in students. Some principals at some schools who are running their own LSC should be evaluated by outside sources. Lots of fault; but the LSC is not doing their job. They only have 1 teacher representative. They do not have a quorum and seldom have LSC meetings; because the principal dodge the input of the parents. The principal always disappears when there is a LSC meeting to be held. Parents do not get notification that a meeting will be held.

Pro BA ECE wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Responding to $8/hr

For teachers with a BA in ECE who work at state-funded centers, they earn $12-$15 an hour. As a certified teacher with a type 04, I prefer working with teachers with an associates or bachelors in ECE. They understand developmental and classroom management practices & are more professional.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Take the energy of your complaining & do something about it

If what you say is true, the teachers are responsible for running for the LSC--so is a staff member. Call Local School Council Relations with your complaints. They will contact the principal and NOT use your name. They will send someone to the school to help/support the LSC to get a quarum.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

It's about time

It's about time Head Start has the same requirements as the state funded preschool programs! It will be one way to improve the quality of the instruction and professionalize early childhood education since HS is the largest ec program in the nation.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

12 an hour

I was being cynical. I think you deserve 20 an hour. Its a ton of responsibility for a salary that wont afford you financial independence. Lets assume you work 30 to 40 hours a week on the clock. 50 weeks a year. That's like 24 to 30k per year. With a 200 monthly student loan , taxes, rent, car ....not much left over. I don't see a recruiting tool here. Of course ba and associates are better....but they need an incentive ...... im only saying you work hard and that 25k is an insult

Anonymous wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Bachelor's does not mean Quality

There are many ECH professionals who are degreed but not qualified. I have worked with teachers with a Bachelor degree in another field and has a certification in ECE who are the best teachers who have walked the Earth. I also worked with a certified teacher who has their degree in ECE and has no sense of how to teach young children. I believe knowing the basics, in regards to, the theorists and children development along side some mentoring, hands-on, and a dab of passion equals the perfect teacher. Notice, I did not mention degreed but having some important background information makes a difference.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Bachelors for $8 per hour

Our agency pays $12.00 per hour for associate and $15.00 per hour for Bachelor's with full benefits including tuition reinbursement. With the state certified teachers they start off at $20.00 per hour. That is still not enough and so far off from the worth of an ECE teacher. It is society that thinks ECE is not important and therefore lets pay them low wages for a job that is the most important in terms of offering future success for children and families especially those that are high risk. We need to ask for degrees so that we can raise the level of professionalism in the field of early education. We also have to invest in ECE as all the research points out spend now and save later. And remember the state stole money from the teacher pensions for years using it like you use your credit card to buy Xmas gifts and time is come to pay it back. The payback will be so great that many programs that provide services to the most in need will be cut so add that to the list of why some are still making $8.00 per hour and leave Obama out of the conversation.

Ruby wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

ECE & Degrees

Just a point of clarification. There seems to be a lack of distinction between private Head Start programs and CPS run Head Start programs. The requirements for teachers in Chicago Public Schools has always been to have a Bachelors degree, and for the assistants to have a CDA or an Assoc. Degree. It's always been the church run or other social service agencies that have had the effect of bringing down the "professionalism" of Head Start in the eyes of many, as we were all lumped together. The powers that be have been beating the drum for higher standards since 1966, but when a church can submit a proposal for funding for a privately run Head Start, the pastors wife and great aunt Minnie can be the teacher and aide , with no other qualifications than an inservice or 2.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

degrees and years of experience

I have been teaching for fourteen years, and now all of a sudden my four-year degree is being considered meaningless because it wasn't ece. I have to be in a cda program in order to have a lower status as and assistant and my wage will be frozen.
I am for the life of me trying to figure out how this is at all fair, and am searching for a way to maintain my teacher status without having to start all over.
I would be happy to see any and all responses to this?!?!?

Anonymous wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

HS Teaching requirements

The feds say 50% and the city says 100% so why not compromise and do 75%? That would leave room for the experienced quality teacher that does not have a bachelor's degree. The City will be pulling the plug on agencies that do not meet the standards and that will mean hardship for those community based agencies. The feds had it right at 50% because it is most difficult for staff to work full time and go to school. Many are living in the same situation that their clients are living in and we make a great effort to help the neediest and most at risk but forget one very important component, the teacher. It has to be a gradual process done over time and for many working in the field it is a huge challenge so lets come up with a solution before the bus runs over the people that come to work everyday hoping to make a difference. I do not see a line of people with their 4 year degree knocking at the door to get into this field and it is not always about having credentials.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago


I am afraid the bus has already left and there are bodies everywhere!

Anonymous wrote 46 weeks 3 days ago

Bachelors degrees

I think it is a shame that you have qualified people working in early childhood education that has not received their bachelors degree and the government is kicking them to the curve. I whether have a qualified staff that love each child for who they are as an individual than some teacher who has earned a bachelor degree and have no compassionate for education. You want the teachers to have bachelor degrees but how are they suppose to take classes doing the day when they are in the classroom. It is no way you are going to earned a bachelor degree taking two classes in the evening each semester. Let's get real with these Head Start mandates.

Anonymous wrote 46 weeks 2 days ago

Just a point of clarification. There seems to be a lack of disti

Point of clarification, Head Start funded through the City of Chicago states that a bachelors in ECE or related field with ECE hours is the only thing that meets teacher qualifications. This means all Head Start programs that do not have a direct contract with the federal government. I run a social service agency Childcare Program and our Head Start teachers must have a bachelors or we do not get funded. Your point of clarification is dead wrong about only public school HS programs having Bachelors for teachers. Chicago Public School funded Preschool For All programs require Bachelors plus 04 certification which all of our teachers have to have so due to the blended funding our program receives all of our teachers that are Head Start have Bachelors and 04 certification. So, our Social Service Agency has higher standards that CPS Head Start programs! And , our teachers get paid $43,500 starting which is still not competitive with the Board of Education. Social Service Agencies run high quality programs and ours is one of the best not only in the city but in the entire country!

Anonymous wrote 17 weeks 6 days ago

Bachelors degree vs common sense

Bachelors degrees can be useful but i recommand hands on first in the classroom before you hit the books, you need alot of common sense and hands on to understand the sofisticated world of open book, note taking etc. Vs visual learning and hands on. And besides who has the money to pay for a bachelors , you dont want to be paying on a loan forever, also i recommand administrative staff have degrees in earlychildhood education as well, so you only need a cda to carry out as a teacher assistant ?

Anonymous wrote 4 weeks 3 days ago

AA degree vse. a CDA

I am one class away from my AA degree but a person with a CDA was chosen to work with the head start program at my center in Chicago why.

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